Le nabe d'antan
Used to be that every single place had a, well, place in it. Now the missing in combat include my beloved Second Avenue Deli (bastard landlord raised the rent from $25,000 per month to $33,000...that's a heck of a lot of kosher hot dogs they'd have to sell to meet that nut. Their big mistake, sadly, was not buying their building years ago, as so many other proprietors did, it can't have cost that much...), a health-food store called Prana, a teashop that was succeeded by a pizza place that only lasted a couple of months (owned by the same bastard landlord that evicted the Deli), Tel Aviv car service (now operating out of Queens under the name DIAL-7, and my car service of choice to the airport), the wonderful fishmarket right next door to it (which reinvented itself as a sushi bar with fresh fish sold in the rear of the store; now we have no fishmarket AT ALL, thank you SO much, you sleazeballs, and must trek up to Whole Foods on 14th Street and pay inflated prices), La Focacceria, a hundred-year-old Italian place I absolutely loved, replaced by a Middle-Eastern-run "gourmet shop" that has itself already closed after like three months, no centenarian it. And a bunch more.
Even in the Plague Years of the late 70's and early 80's, I didn't notice as many empty stores. Somehow they all hung on. There was a lot of gentrification-fueled turnover: old-time places like the wonderful Italian-Ukrainian restaurant Orchidia forced out of business and replaced by Steve's Ice Cream (who?? Then there was a rather good restaurant in that space called In Padella, forced out likewise, and the space is now another damn Starbucks).
All my fave stores from when I first moved in are gone, pretty much. Except for Veniero's, great Italian pastry palace, and the two butchers I patronize, and De Robertis, another great old Italian pastry and ice store, and Five Roses, my local quick pizza/meatball sandwich house of choice.
But that's more or less normal over the course of forty years. This new plague of rent-raise evictions is a very different and much more nasty thing.
The replacements were all short-lived, because the neighborhood voted with its wallets and refused to go inside. But now supergentrification has apparently set in, and greedy soulless landlords, unfettered by nonexistent commercial rent controls, push their demands to the point where the shopowners can't keep up and have to close.
Good, I say! Not good that my old favorites are gone, but good that the storefronts stand vacant, in mute tombstone-like testimony to carpetbagging slimebuckets who come in to rape the neighborhood. Let the blank windows stand blank forever, let the doors be forever shut, let the venal pigdogs lose money hand over fist! THAT'll teach 'em! Even if they find new tenants I will boycott them, as a matter of honor and principle. And so should everyone else. (Well, except if the new tenant is a Trader Joe's, who are righteous. Principle is one thing, practicality is quite another.)